U.S. President George Bush says the United States remains determined to carry out its mission in Iraq, despite continuing attacks on coalition forces.
The president said America will not retreat from what he calls a central front in the war on terrorism. "A free Iraq will be a peaceful Iraq. And a free and peaceful Iraq is important for the national security of America," he said.
On Sunday, 16 Americans were killed when their transport helicopter was downed west of Baghdad. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. forces since the war began in March.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave the initial administration response, calling it a tragic day for America. The president's first comments came a day later, in a previously scheduled speech on the economy in Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. Bush did not refer specifically to the attack, but left no doubt his determination to stay the course in Iraq is firm. "The enemy in Iraq believes America will run. That is why they are willing to kill innocent civilians, relief workers, and coalition troops. America will never run. America will do what is necessary to make our country more secure," he said.
The president carried on that theme later in the day at an event held in Birmingham to raise money for his re-election campaign. He said once again that America will not be intimidated by those who want to stop the move toward freedom and self-government in Iraq. "We will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror," he said.
At several points during his stay in Alabama, Mr. Bush took note of U.S. forces lost in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He said America mourns every loss and honors every name.